Day 3 -- Cucuta on to Pamplona

Trip Start Jan 15, 2013
Trip End Feb 07, 2013

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Flag of Colombia  , Norte de Santander,
Saturday, January 26, 2013

Our third morning was preceded by training.  We had discussed and identified roles and a system to ensure that our subsequent deliveries occurred as smoothly as possible.  There are some logistical details that need to be worked out in a group of 15, the largest contingent ever to have accompanied a C.R. Rotary wheelchair distribution.  This seems an appropriate time to comment on the patience, organizational talent and translation skills of Oliver Zihlmann, exchange student to Venezuela from our Rotary District 5020 back in 1999.  It is hard to imagine the trip without him. We began at the public square of El Zulia.  We had a moment of panic when Hansi and Maggie appeared to be lost.  They arrived in the nick of time.  This ceremony began with an impassioned speech from a clearly grateful mayor.  Our delivery of 30 wheelchairs went so smoothly.  We continue to be overwhelmed by the expressions of thanks often mixed with tears of happiness.  Two among many stood out.  One was a young, incredibly thin man surrounded by friends, his only family.  Although he did not say a word his friends thanked us over and over again.  The second story tells us so much about the close connection of Colombian families.  One young boy, about 10, noticed his grandmother waiting patiently head down.  He rushed over to wipe her mouth, put his arms around her, and began to rock her. Her arms reached out to him and they continued to hug each other.  Yes, he was the first to wheel her about in pride once she was in her wheelchair.  These are only two of the many stories that speak to the love between family and friends that we so often saw demonstrated.    

Our road trip to Pamplona, our next wheelchair distribution centre, was an adventure.  Imagine a twisting and turning undulating narrow road riddled with gaping washouts that often brings you far too close to a sheer drop of thousands of feet.  Yes, it was breath taking in more than one way.  Pamplona is a charming village, the oldest centre of its area.  One of the two Rotary host clubs had only been chartered in December with a new presidentt who was president of her previous club at the age of 26.  It is difficult to do justice to a description of the beauty of the area.  We all felt safe and so welcome.  It is a place that we all said we would like to return to some day.  We were to discover the next day that the views from so many of the impoverished homes were stunning. That evening at a hosted dinner three wheelchairs were presented to three Pamplona elders.  The recipients and families were all invited to dinner.  One 85 year old woman, grateful for her new chair, still made certain that the roof of the taxi that took her home was loaded up with her favourite blue plastic chair.  It was obvious that chair had been home to her for many years.
Craig Gillis Campbell River Daybreak Rotary
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